After providing color commentary for ESPNU’s Sunday night broadcast of No. 8 seed Syracuse’s 11-9 win against Albany in an NCAA tournament first-round game, Mark Dixon spent a little time looking ahead to the two quarterfinals in Providence on Saturday and remaining two in Columbus on Sunday. Here is the former Johns Hopkins midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter at @DixonLacrosse, taking a look at each of the contests.
A lot of people are saying that Saturday’s quarterfinal between No. 1 seed Maryland and No. 8 seed Syracuse should be a game for championship weekend in Philadelphia. Do you agree?
I think on paper, yes. I think now with Syracuse being on a six-game win streak, you could make that argument. Do I think Syracuse deserved to be seeded eighth? Probably not. I think they should have been a little bit higher based on winning the [Atlantic Coast Conference] championship, but this is not a regular ACC year. the conference has never lost so many games than they did in 2016. This is a good Syracuse team, but this is not your quintessential Syracuse team. Are they capable of beating Maryland? Yes, they are. But before the tournament, would you have said they were in your Final Four without knowing that they would have to go through Maryland? I never picked Syracuse to be in the Final Four. On paper, I think there’s an argument, but in reality, I think this is a good quarterfinal game. The committee relied a lot on RPI, they relied a lot on the numbers, which is kind of like an admissions board relying solely on SAT scores. You’ve got to look at the whole picture, and I think to an extent, the committee looked at some other things. But Maryland is the best team in the country right now. They’re one of the favorites to get to Philadelphia, and they’re one of the favorites to get to Memorial Day, and they are the favorite to hoist the championship trophy when it’s all said and done. It’s all about opportunity. You’re not going to play any cupcakes in the quarterfinals because everybody’s had to win a game to get to this point no matter how they finished the regular season. So I think it’s a great matchup, but I don’t think it warrants Syracuse fans screaming bloody murder.
The second quarterfinal in Providence pits the most prolific offense in the nation in No. 5 seed Brown against the stingiest defense in the country in Navy. How can Navy slow Brown?
Control faceoffs. I think [Navy junior] Brady Dove is going to have to have a huge game. [Junior] Matt Rees with the long pole has to come off the wings and get ground balls. Navy has to control the tempo, they’ve got to make Brown uncomfortable, and the way you make Brown uncomfortable is you make them play a lot of defense. Bryant kind of did that when they beat them, Harvard made them do that when they beat them in the Ivy League tournament. But Brown is Brown. They’re going to be comfortable playing at any speed. They were a little slower against Johns Hopkins, which I think was a good sign that they can win at a slower pace. But I think Navy is going to have to slow the tempo down to an extent. That doesn’t mean slow it down to the point where you don’t play and you don’t execute and you don’t function. But they can’t afford to get into a run-and-gun game against Brown. Brown is a little bit more athletic, a little faster than Yale, and they’re going to get better goaltending and better faceoff play. But [Navy] can’t get into a track meet against Brown.
The first quarterfinal in Columbus is a rematch of an April 23 game in which North Carolina rallied from a 15-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Notre Dame, 17-15. Do you think the No. 3 seed Fighting Irish wanted another shot?
I think at this stage of the game, you just want to play, and if you get an opportunity to take on someone who beat you earlier, I think that provides motivation. Let’s face it, North Carolina and Duke put a hurting on Notre Dame’s defense in the regular season and in the ACC tournament. So for Notre Dame to get another crack at Carolina, I think they’re happy that they’re still playing, but the fact that they get a mulligan against North Carolina, they’re pretty excited about that.
The second quarterfinal is a rematch of a March 2 contest in which Towson held on for a 10-8 win against Loyola Maryland. These programs obviously know each other. So how much can that help?
There are no secrets between the two teams. They’ve been playing against each other in the regular season forever. It’s kind of hard to believe that five years ago, these two teams played in a 3-2 game [won by Loyola]. I’ll never forget calling that one. It was like a soccer match. But I don’t think there are any secrets between these two. They know each other incredibly well, they’re both going to be very well prepared. Much like Notre Dame is the favorite going in against Carolina despite losing to the Tar Heels, Loyola is the favorite heading into this game against Towson even though they lost to the Tigers. It’s going to be a great game.